Thursday, January 24, 2013


Onward. That’s my battle-cry these days. The truth is that it’s January 2013, and I’m a lot closer to the end of my service than I am to the beginning. I’m not really thinking about the finish line, but I do feel like it’s the last leg of this relay. After a long end of year break, I’m back at work at Fútbol Con Corazón, anxious to make these next five months count. But beyond my work in my immediate community, I’m excited about some “secondary” projects that are on my plate.

Peace Corps Volunteers around the world almost always get involved in secondary projects. While we all have a primary assignment, we are encouraged to tackle additional work, based on our interests and the resources available. In Cape Verde, my primary assignment was my work as a Business Advisor and English teacher at the Centro da Juventude. My secondary project was coaching the U-17 boys team at G. D. Amarante

Here in Colombia, my primary assignment is my work at the Fútbol Con Corazón site in my barrio. I’m only now getting the ball rolling on some secondary projects. The interesting thing is that often times, a volunteer’s secondary project ends up being where we get some of the best work done—where we get that sense of productivity, contribution, or accomplishment.

Late in 2012 I took a trip south of Barranquilla to a community called Campo de la Cruz. The purpose of this trip—other than to score some pancakes and bacon—was to lay the groundwork for a secondary project. I’m happy to say that, barring any last minute fireworks, the project is actually going to happen next week. Over the course of a few days, a small team of Peace Corps Response Volunteers will be hosting a multi-sport camp for students at a local school. Our team of six includes young men and women with some great experience coaching and playing soccer, basketball, and volleyball. We’ll be working with the school’s Athletic Coordinator, and we’re looking forward to the chance to share ideas with each other and with the kids. I’ll let you know how it goes, but in the meantime, just wish us luck.

In addition to the Sports Camp, we are tackling a more ambitious project that will hopefully make a long term contribution to the Peace Corps program in this country. Colombia was one of the original Peace Corps countries, with a program that ran from 1961 until 1981, when they were forced to close because of increasing violence. The program reopened in 2010, with a handful of Peace Corps Response Volunteers. This small group was followed by a larger cohort of over 20 Volunteers, who launched the Teaching English for Livelihoods (TEL) sector. Last August, another batch of 29 TEL Volunteers arrived to work in local schools.

All this is to say that as of right now, the only official “sector” that operates in Colombia is the TEL program. The six of us Peace Corps Response Volunteers operate somewhere in the nebulous intersection of Youth and Community Development. In addition to our primary and secondary projects, part of our responsibility is to help the Staff lay the groundworks for an expanded Youth Development sector. In other words, we want to do work now that will make a future cohort of YD Volunteers have a more successful service. Right now, this work is taking the form of developing a Youth Development Archive that will serve as a resource for current and future volunteers. This Archive will contain profiles of completed projects as well as organizations that are working in Youth Development. In the short term, the Archive could inspire other TEL volunteers to take on Youth Development activities as secondary projects. Down the road, the Archive should facilitate the process of identifying Counterpart Organizations for YD Volunteers.

But enough about work. Like I said, I had a loooong vacation, and it’s been a while since I checked in on the blog. So, here’s a few highlights from the desórden.*

On December 31st, we had three reasons to celebrate. In addition to the new year, it was my host sister’s birthday. On top of that, my other host-sister made a surprise visit, after spending the last three years in Venezuela. There are a lot of things that are challenging about life in the Peace Corps... having these girls for host sisters is not one of those things.

Several of my friends had parents visiting from the States. Having enjoyed the company of my folks, it was nice to get to know my friends' families, and to see what kind of tree those apples fell from.

We might have overdosed on La Troja**, if such a thing is possible. But in the words of the great urban poets, Chingy and Tyrese , “Everytime I try to leave something keeps pullin’ me back.” 

I FINALLY made my first trip to Santa Marta, even though it was only for twenty-four hours. I knew the trip was going to be epic when I walked in the hostel and bumped right into Candace and Brett, my American friends who are living in Cartagena and Bogotá as Fullbright scholars. Quality dancing, quality beaches, quality people.

Mango Jazz is still rocking out every Saturday night at Mazzino Pizzeria. The last two weekends we were blessed with a visit from Ricardo, a Colombian bassist who now lives in Washington D.C.

In addition to being a beast on the upright, Ricardo’s also got some nice friends, whom I’ve now claimed as my own.

As you can see, there are too many reasons to enjoy the work and the life, so I say “bring it.” Onward.

Pura Vida,

*The direct translation of desórden is "disorder." In daily life it is how we refer to our nightlife activities in my barrio and out at our various favorite dancing spots.

** La Troja is the most famous Salsa club in Barranquilla. See definition of "desórden" above.

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